Your logo is the first part of your brand that people see. It’s also the central icon for how people remember you, and how they make associations about your brand. While it’s great to explore your creativity when designing a logo, there are a few common mistakes that can undermine an otherwise great logo design.
Luckily, these kinds of errors are easy to remedy if you know what you’re doing. We’ve laid out the top logo mistakes in the categories they most commonly appear: Color, Shapes & Symbols, and Typography.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
Some of the worst logo designs we’ve seen involve poor use of color. Here are a few of the most common mistakes people make, and how you can avoid them:
Mistake #1: Using logo colors that are irrelevant to your brand
Colors are intrinsically linked to our emotions as signals to help us navigate the world. Think of color as part of the personality or body language of your brand.
With this in mind, your logo needs to reflect your brand. One of the most critical logo mistakes you can make is to use colors that don’t appear anywhere in your brand identity. This is a huge no-no, and should be avoided at all costs.
Mistake #2: Inconsistent tints and shades
Tints and shades determine how pure a color tone appears to us.
One of the most common reasons colors don’t work well together is that they have different saturations and values. Unless you’re a seasoned designer, making a pure-tone-red work with a pastel baby blue is HARD to pull off.
If you look at the chart below, you’ll see what we mean.
See how the purer tones in the top row work better with colors in their row, rather than with those in the bottom row?
Pick logo colors with similar saturation and value. It shows a level of care for your design process and a commitment to consistency in your brand.
The Mastercard logo is a great example: notice how the hues of each color are the same? Now imagine if the red circle became 50% less saturated. Would a pastel-red work with the bright hues of the rest of the logo? Probably not!
Mistake #3: Using too many colors
Okay, sometimes it works (take the NBC logo for example). But unless you’re literally selling lucky charms, it’s generally not a good idea to use every color possible.
In fact, using too many colors signals that you can’t decide what palette to go with, which in turn makes your brand character unclear—and therefore less likely to resonate with your target audience.
The Pepsi logo is a great example of a simple yet effective color combination. Notice how Pepsi also used the negative white space to break the colors apart and emphasize their contrast.
Ideally, it helps to work with two to three colors that have a clear relationship to one another. (If you’re stuck, check out some of our color combinations for inspiration).
Mistake #4: Using gradient logos without appreciating their context
In our always-on digital world, gradient logos are becoming the primary logo for many businesses.
A word to the wise, however: these logos have strict design rules about where gradients kick in and the rate of the transition between colors. Make sure you keep consistent with the gradient rules used in your logo, and everywhere else in your brand.
Mozilla’s logo and brand guidelines, for example, are a great way to understand the level of detail that goes into using logo gradients across a wider brand identity.
Shapes and symbols
Lurking behind a ton of logo fails is insensitivity to shape and symbolism. Since both of these elements are an integral part of how your logo carries meaning, it’s vital you know what to do, and what not to.
Mistake #5: Using containers incorrectly
As you can see, containers are an amazing way to put text into context. But you need to get the right balance.
Too big, and your logo text will become overpowered by the excess space. Too small, and your poor logo will be all boxed in. Similarly, using the wrong style of container detracts from your logo.
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As a general rule of thumb, ask yourself whether or not the addition of a container enhances, or takes away from your logo. Try out different combinations until you land on something that works visually.
Mistake #6: Inappropriate logo marks
Your logo mark is the symbol used alongside, or separate to your logo text. Great logo marks have a simple but effective relationship with the logo text, and can also work in isolation.
Bad logo marks fight for attention, don’t make any sense, and undermine your brand. Make sure the logo mark you use has some relevance to the text, even if it’s super simple.
Headspace, for example, has the most basic logo mark ever. (Literally, it’s just a circle).
Why does it work so well? Because it suits the brand. If you look closely, you can see how the circle isn’t quite perfect. Given that Headspace make a mindfulness app, the logo mark brilliantly captures the idea of accepting things as they are. The best way to avoid logo design mistakes is to align your logo to your brand as clearly and simply as possible.
Mistake #7: No visual hierarchy
There should be a clear relationship between fonts you’ve chosen that follows a logical and intuitive design hierarchy. Where does the eye want to go first? What information do we receive and in what order? Is there a natural flow between the logo mark, the main font, and the secondary font?
Visual hierarchy is all about designing to suit the natural habits of the eye. We see big things, high contrast, and bright colors first, followed by small things, low contrast, and dull colors.
Mistake #8: Confusing scale
Scale can have a huge impact on how we process an image. Even simple changes in the scale of your logo elements can make a big difference.
A common mistake people make is having a HUGE logo mark, with a teeny-tiny line of text. As we discussed, visual hierarchy is about designing with the eye in mind. This means creating harmony between the scale of every element within your logo.
Fonts are a classic example of the old dictum, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” With that in mind, choosing the right font is a critical part of your logo design. One of the most common logo mistakes we see involves poor use of typography in one form or another.
Mistake #9: Choosing an inappropriate font
It’s important to choose a font that matches your brand story and purpose. If you run a cutting-edge tech company, for example, you may not want to have a cursive, elaborate, or old-fashioned font.
Similarly, make sure your font has enough contrast to be seen with ease. Too little weight, or a lack of differentiation between your text and background color, both make it tough for people to read your logo.
Your font should match the character of the product or service you offer. Sans serif, modern fonts, are a great place to start because of their flexibility and visibility across different media. Explore different fonts until you find one that mirrors your brand story.
Mistake #10: Sloppy alignment and kerning
If you’re not using a graphic logo or custom font, generally you want your logo text to be lined up properly.
Keep in mind that we generally read from left to right in the English-speaking world, in what’s known as an F-pattern.
As for kerning (the spacing between letters), a common mistake people make with logo fonts is applying equal spacing as opposed to optical spacing. Rather than using exactly equal spaces between letters, focus on making your font readable.
For the sake of remaining PG, we’ll avoid showing examples here, but do yourself a favor and google “kerning mistakes” to get an idea of how important this one element really is.
Mistake #11: Bad font pairings
Oscar-worthy performances usually involve great co-stars. Christian Bale had Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe had Joaquin Phoenix, and John Malkovich and John Malkovich.
In the same way, the secondary fonts in your logo have to meaningfully support your main font. A common mistake of logo design involves the pairing of mismatched fonts.
The main font should describe the most memorable unit of information – like your company name, while the secondary font is used to tell people what you do.
And whatever you do, don’t use more than one elaborate font design!
Mistake #12: Logo slogans that go on forever!
Quick. Simple. To the point. Tell people who you are with your logo slogan, but don’t make the mistake of giving people an essay to read.
Great logo slogans are either descriptive (they tell people what you do), or they’re creative (they tell people something about your character and the value of what you offer).
Ask yourself these questions
Ultimately, people make mistakes with their logos because they don’t follow a few basic principles. To avoid this, it helps to ask yourself a few questions about your logo from the perspective of your viewer:
- Can you see the logo clearly?
- Does it look good?
- Does it make sense visually?
- Do the colors work together?
- Does the logo match your brand identity?
- Will it work with across different mediums – print, web, and social media?
Design is about justifying each choice you make conceptually. While it can be tempting to add ten shapes, fifteen fonts, three containers and the entire color spectrum to your logo, this won’t give your customers the impression you’re in control.
Learning the basics of logo design allows you to break the rules effectively, where necessary. Until then, avoid logo mistakes by keeping things simple.
The less work your customers have to do to understand and trust your brand, the better!